Wednesday, January 6, 2010
There are some films that are, admittedly, fluffy pieces that gloss over harsh realities. Julie & Julia is one of those films; however, its easy formula works really well, considering the subject matter.
Starring Meryl Streep as the iconic Julia Child and Amy Adams as Julie Powell, a Child disciple who decides to put her writing skills to use and attempt to make a mark on the literary world by cooking her way through Child's book, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" and blogging about her experiences, Julie & Julia weaves the lives of these two women and shows how, though they are in different generations and countries, their lives are more similar than first imagined.
Or are they? The focus on Child's life is the period between the late 1940's and the 1950's when Child, living in Paris with her husband Paul (Stanley Tucci) discovers her love of French cuisine and her desire to learn to cook it. After attending Le Cordon Bleu cooking school as the only female in the class, she teams up with two other female french foodies who have written an enormous cookbook for American women, but need Child to help them with the editing and testing process. Though she encounters some resistance, first when she enrolls in the cooking school and later, when she is attempting to get their book published, her hard work and the undying support of her husband allow her to persevere. On the other hand, Powell is already an accomplished amateur cook and self-professed "foodie" who indeed comes up with an excellent idea for a blog and certainly a daunting task in tackling the cookbook, but it seems that her success either comes really easily or the realities of it are simply not addressed. As a blogger myself, I am surely one of millions of bloggers who will probably never see their own blog go viral enough where it is a featured blog on Salon or a New York Times article will be written about us. Normally this would not be a point of contention with me, particularly in such a non-challenging film, but there was such a focus on the blog itself that it seems the rise in popularity should have been addressed at some point.
Adams, who is quickly becoming the new, much less annoying Meg Ryan for this generation does a good job as Powell, considering the shallowness of the character. Streep, who is awesome in everything she does, completely embodies what I would assume Julia Child was really like and is completely delightful. There were so many times during the film that she delivers a line that is so perfectly executed and natural that I would wonder if it was actually ad-libbed. ("I'm growing as we speak!") Stanley Tucci is another actor who is always good in everything he does, and he and Streep had great chemistry and showed how truly in love the Childs were. One never thinks of Julia Child as a sexual person, but she and Paul were madly in love with one another and were not afraid to show it. I really loved that relationship in the film.
As stated earlier, Julie & Julia doesn't take a lot of chances, and indeed, does fall into standard "chick flick" territory at times, which I suppose can be attributed to Nora Ephron's direction. (Can she possibly make a film where the main female characters doesn't have a wise-cracking, slightly weird looking best friend?) But then again, it doesn't really pretend to be anything more than what it is, and with a couple of exceptions, mainly the glaring omissions in Powell's development, I was really okay with that, and I found that the film was actually pretty good and really charming, overall. I realized that throughout most of the film I had a smile on my face, and I laughed out loud more than a dozen times, mostly during Meryl Streep's time onscreen. I know a couple of people who are fond of the phrase, "It is what it is." and that accurately sums up Julie & Julia. If you don't come into this film expecting to be anything but charmed and entertained, you won't be disappointed.
3 1/2 out of 5 stars